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Does my picky eater need a multivitamin?

Updated: Jan 2



As a parent, dealing with a picky eater can be frustrating, stressful, and sometimes downright exhausting. You've tried sneaking veggies into sauces and smoothies, you've compromised on favourite meals in exchange for trying one new food, you've resorted to bribery and bargaining—and still your child turns up their nose at anything green or containing more flavour than a Ritz cracker. At this point, you may be wondering if they're getting enough nutrients in their limited diet. Is it time to start a daily multivitamin routine to supplement what they're not eating? In this post, we'll look at the signs that indicate your picky eater may need a daily vitamin and what to look for in a children's multivitamin to give them a nutritional boost.


Picky eaters often consume a less diverse range of foods, which may result in inadequate nutrient intake, or increased intake of less nutritious foods. This can lead to weight gain or loss, gastrointestinal disorders, poor growth status, and even changes in appetite.


While food is the best way for your child to get all the vitamins and minerals they need, picky eaters tend to have a reduced intake of vegetables, whole-grain products, seafood, meat, unsweetened cereals, and fruits, and an increased intake of savoury snacks, sugary cereals, and fried foods, like hot chips. If your child does not eat enough of certain foods OR has dropped whole food groups, they MAY need a supplement.



Key Nutrient Inadequacies to Watch Out for in Picky Eaters


Iron

Iron is essential for brain development, growth, and providing energy for daily life. The most bioavailable (readily absorbed) version of iron is found in meats, poultry, and seafood as heme iron. However, you can also get iron from plant-based sources, like legumes, nuts, and tofu (non-heme iron). Due to many picky eater’s reluctance to consume meat products, low iron is relatively common amongst this group.


Symptoms of Low Iron

  • Fatigue

  • Breathlessness

  • Behavioural problems

  • Increased infections

  • Loss of appetite

  • Slowed growth rate

  • Increased sweating

  • Strange food cravings, for example, dirt or soap, known as pica.


Zinc

Zinc is critical for normal growth and function of the immune system. Zinc is present in seafood, beef, poultry, grains and legumes.

Symptoms of Low Zinc

  • Suppressed immunity (common infection)

  • Diarrhoea

  • Slow wound healing

  • Rough skin

  • Stunted growth


Fibre

Fibre is important to consider due to its important role in healthy digestion and gut health. Fibre is found in vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, and wholegrains.


Symptoms of Low Fibre Intake

  • Constipation

  • Hard stools

Vitamin A

Beta-carotene is the most important pro-vitamin A carotenoid and is the pigment in plant foods that gives them their orange, yellow and red colours. Food sources of carotene include carrots, sweet potato, rock melon, capsicum, mango, apricots, and tomatoes.


Symptoms of Low Vitamin A

  • Blindness and night blindness

  • Dry skin

  • Impaired immunity

  • Growth retardation


What Can Parents Do?

For the majority of picky eaters, it may just be a phase that will improve over time. Although picky eaters typically consume lower levels of important nutrients in comparison to non-fussy eaters, however studies show that the picky eaters, in general, tend to still meet the recommended daily requirements for energy, protein and many nutrients.


These days many foods we eat, such as breakfast cereals, breads and juices are fortified with important vitamins and minerals – remember to read the Nutrition Information Panel. Your child may be getting more vitamins and minerals than you think. Keep an eye on your child’s general health and behaviour, and talk to a nutritionist or healthcare practitioner if concerned. I your child does not eat enough of one or more major food groups then they may need a multivitamin supplement.


IF YOUR CHILD EATS...

THEN SUPPLEMENT WITH...

Little or no meat or iron rich foods

A daily multivitamin with iron

No dairy or calcium-enriched foods

Calcium & Vitamin D

No animal products (vegan)

Vitamin B12 and possible iron

Little or no fruits or vegetables

A daily multivitamin


General Points to Consider:

  • Let your child's health care provider know if you plan on giving your child any dietary supplements.

  • Always store vitamins safely out of reach and in childproof containers. Iron and fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) can be toxic if consumed in large doses. 

  • Consider taste and appeal for your child (getting your child to take them can be the hardest part!).





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